Frequently, people resist accepting the concept of parental alienation, saying “yeah right, a child would know of someone was trying to manipulate them”.
So let’s consider some graduated examples to see why it isn’t far fetched:
1. Let’s start with the classic tales: The Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the Stork.
5. “Psychologist and influence expert Robert Levine reports that most people have the illusion that they are immune to persuasion.” [Baker2014 Surviving]
6. Recall the lessons of advertising (sensuality sells), negative campaigning (it works), cigarette ads (they worked), and the Innocence Project (11 Jurors unanimously sign off on death penalties only to be proved wrong years later by the math of DNA testing).
7. “The six tactics of persuasion apply to parental alienation: reciprocity, consistency, endorsement of social group, likability, authority, and appearance of scarcity.” [Baker2014 Surviving]
8. Finally, solely for the purpose of understanding people’s natural emotional response when considering whether someone was capable of harming children, consider the lessons from FBI Special Agent Ken Lanning‘s admonishment about people’s views of those accused of committing sexual abuse: “Regardless of intelligence and education and often despite common sense and evidence to the contrary, adults tend to believe what they need to believe. The greater the need, the greater the belief”. “Many individuals do not prevent, recognize, or accept sexual victimization of a child by a respected member of society because they cannot believe a man who is good and spiritual and who seems to truly care for children could be a child molester. Such offenders can be Big Brother of the Year, most popular teacher, coach”. Again, the only parallel intended here is only the emotional, irrational view people usually have of someone who harms children, and no other insinuation is appropriate of intended. In brief, Ken Lanning’s observations can be seen in recent scandals in the Catholic Church and at Penn State.”
9 If adults are no match against the various persuasion machines, how can children be expected to do better?
11. Here is another explanation, from wikipedia, originally from Dr Baker and Dr Childress
“The techniques of harmful parenting may be subtle. A parent can triangulate the child into the marital conflict by encouraging the child to make even minor complaints about the other parent and then “enthusiastically validating” them. This signals to the child that the other parent is dangerous  and insensitive.  This encouragement to complain manipulates the child into the role of victim without the child’s awareness, allowing the parent to move into the protector role, forcing the other parent into the “inadequate” parent role, and leaving no trace of what happened for bystanders who only see the child acting as a “victim”. Over time, the combined effects of growing closer to the alienating parent through this complaining process and growing further from the rejected parent as the result of focusing on negative things about the other parent cause the child to reject their other parent as being inadequate. A parent may also mix in lies, partial lies, and exaggerations, particularly ones that the child may not be able to verify or where only the true part of the partial lie is easy to verify.  As the result of being encouraged to act as judge of their rejected parent, the child then feels superior to their rejected parent, leading to the symptoms of grandiosity, entitlement, and haughty arrogance. This feeds the delusion of the parent, that they are protecting the child from an inadequate parent. The child then begins to adopt this delusion also. Because the child and parent are from different generations, this qualifies as a perverse triangle,   further complicated by enmeshment,      and made even worse worse because a member of the perverse triangle has a personality disorder. Finally, the child may be led to misinterpret the grief they experience from the loss of a parent as pain that means the rejected parent is abusive, since they mainly experience it in the presence of the rejected parent.“
12. Refer also to the research of Dr. Jodi Quas, who summarizes the consensus of mountains of research, that children can easily be manipulated to lie, due to fear. From her youtube talk (see below) entitled “False Allegations and False Denials: Opposing Challenges when Interviewing Suspected Victims of Child Abuse”, she notes: “During the past several decades, hundreds of studies have tested children’s eyewitness memory capabilities and suggestibility. Results demonstrate that children can be manipulated into making all sorts of errors, including claiming that entirely false events occurred.” “The common core across all these reasons is fear.”